Judicial Elections in the 21st Century: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Judicial Elections in the 21st Century

1st Edition

Edited by Chris W. Bonneau, Melinda Gann Hall


274 pages | 35 B/W Illus.

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Leading authorities present the latest cutting edge research on state judicial elections. Starting with recent transformations in the electoral landscape, including those brought about by U.S. Supreme Court rulings, this volume provides penetrating analyses of partisan, nonpartisan, and retention elections to state supreme courts, intermediate appellate courts, and trial courts. Topics include citizen participation, electoral competition, fundraising and spending, judicial performance evaluations, reform efforts,attack campaigns, and other organized efforts to oust judges. This volume also evaluates the impact of judicial elections on numerous aspects of American politics, including citizens’ perceptions of judicial legitimacy, diversity on the bench, and the consequences of who wins on subsequent court decisions. Many of the chapters offer predictions about how judicial elections might look in the future. Overall, this collection provides a sharp evidence-based portrait of how modern judicial elections actually work in practice and their consequences for state judiciaries and the American people.


'Although the political and legal environments surrounding judicial elections have changed considerably in recent years, policy debates regarding judicial selection and retention institutions tend to remain stagnant in their reliance on rhetorical appeals rather than systematic evidence. In this volume, an all-star cast offers new insight into how contemporary judicial elections operate and impact American politics. With coverage spanning the judicial hierarchy and addressing fundamental issues such as voting, campaign finance, advertising, performance, legitimacy, and diversity, this comprehensive collection is a must-have for anyone interested in contemporary judicial elections. - Greg Goelzhauser, Utah State University

'Bonneau and Hall have done it again! This time they have assembled an all-star line-up of scholars of state courts to give us their analyses of a variety of pressing issues surrounding the electing of judges. This collection of chapters is state-of-the-art, filled with unexpected findings and insights, and will be excellent for use in the classroom. I heartily recommend this book not only to judicial scholars but to non-judicial folks interested in larger issues of elections, campaign effects, and the like.' - James Gibson, Washington University in St. Louis

'Bonneau and Hall have assembled an incredibly insightful and thought-provoking set of essays by leading authorities on judicial elections. This book would be a fantastic choice for any professional or graduate class on the judiciary or elections, as well as upper division undergraduate classes on the legal system.' - Jeffrey Yates, Binghamton University

Table of Contents

Section 1: Electing Judges in Contemporary American Politics

1. Judicial Elections in the 21st Century

[Chris W. Bonneau and Melinda Gann Hall]

2. The Changing Legal Landscape of Judicial Elections

[Charles Gardner Geyh and Katherine Thrapp]

Section 2: State Supreme Court Elections

3. Contestation and Competitiveness in State Supreme Court Elections, 1946-2015: A State-Level Analysis

[Herbert M. Kritzer]

4. Campaigning for the High Court Bench

[Melinda Gann Hall and Matthew J. Zalewski]

5. Fundraising and Spending in State Supreme Court Elections

[Chris W. Bonneau]

Chapter 6: Judicial Retention Elections

[Larry Aspin]

Section 3: State Lower Court Elections

7. The Latest Trends in Intermediate Appellate Court Elections

[Matthew J. Streb, Brian Frederick, Casey LaFrance, and Kimberly Rice]

8. Trial Court Campaign Messaging in a Post-White Environment: An Analysis of Candidate Websites in Contested Elections

[Mark Jonathan McKenzie and Ryan J. Rebe]

9. Do Judicial Performance Evaluations Influence Retention Election Results?

[Rebecca D. Gill]

Section 4: The Impact of Judicial Elections

10. Measuring the Impact of Election Outcomes on Voting in State Supreme Courts

[Lawrence Baum, Thomas R. Gray, and David Klein]

11. Judicial Elections and Support for State Courts

[Michael J. Nelson]

12. Elections and Judicial Diversity

[Drew Noble Lanier and Mark S. Hurwitz]

Section 5: Reforming the Judicial Selection Process

Chapter 13: Proposals for Reforms: Successes and Failures

[Chris W. Bonneau and Jenna Becker Kane]

Chapter 14: Conclusion

[Melinda Gann Hall and ris W. Bonneau]

About the Editors

Chris W. Bonneau is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh. His work on judicial elections has been published in the top journals in political science, and he has coauthored two books on the subject: In Defense of Judicial Elections (2009, Routledge) and Voters’ Verdicts: Citizens, Campaigns, and Institutions in State Supreme Court Elections (2015, University of Virginia Press). Additionally, he recently coedited Making Law and Courts Research Relevant: The Normative Implications of Empirical Research (2015, Routledge). Professor Bonneau currently serves as coeditor of State Politics and Policy Quarterly, one of the most influential substantive outlets for scholarship on state judicial politics.

Melinda Gann Hall is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University. A pioneer in the field, her work on judicial elections spans over three decades and has been published in all of the most highly regarded journals in the discipline. She is coauthor of In Defense of Judicial Elections (2009, Routledge) and author of Attacking Judges: How Campaign Advertising Influences State Supreme Court Elections (2015, Stanford University Press).

About the Series

Law, Courts and Politics

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville famously noted that "scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question." The importance of courts in settling political questions in areas ranging from health care to immigration shows the continuing astuteness of de Tocqueville’s observation. To understand how courts resolve these important questions, empirical analyses of law, courts and judges, and the politics and policy influence of law and courts have never been more salient or more essential.

Law, Courts and Politics was developed to analyze these critically important questions. This series presents empirically driven manuscripts in the broad field of judicial politics and public law by scholars in law and social science. It uses the most up to date scholarship and seeks an audience of  students, academics, upper division undergraduate and graduate courses in law, political science and sociology as well as anyone interested in learning more about law, courts and politics.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Elections
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Government / Judicial Branch